Written by: Patrick Ness
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Pages: 205, Hardback
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The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
This review will be pretty short, just as the book was pretty short, but I wanted to express my appreciation for the general amazingness of the story, so here we are! My review will almost definitely not do this book justice, but I want to scream about it a little anyway.
This book is not what I thought it would be from the cover, which seemed to scream “creepy horror story! do not read before bed time!” Really, it was more along the lines of “deeply upsetting story! do not read on public transportation!” (I did, in fact, read a significant part of it on public transportation). A Monster Calls is about a boy who is isolated and angry and hurting. It’s about grief and lies and truth and the power of stories. And even though the topics it deals with are painful, there are notes of optimism.
There’s a bit of a children’s-book feel in the writing, but it’s not really a children’s book, or at least, not just for children. A Monster Calls combines a fairy-tale-like tone with one of the most honest portrayals of grief and loss I have ever seen. It hurts, but in a good way, you know, and in a way that always feels genuine and not manufactured. The sentences are the kind that you reread over and over so they can get into your heart just right. The art is unique and beautiful and strengthens the effect of the words. The story is deeply human, powerful and memorable.
I usually have at least one or two nitpicks to put into this section. This time I have nothing, not even “I wanted more of ______”. This book was perfect pretty much the way it was.
I like the simplicity in this book. Or maybe that’s not the right word, because because behind the simple plot and writing are some beautifully portrayed complicated emotions, but anyway–this isn’t an “everything happens so much” type of book like so many others I’ve read this year. It’s quiet and personal, all the better to keep the focus on the emotions it evokes in the reader. I felt Conor’s pain, and his relationships with his mother and grandmother did things to my heart. And unlike some books, which almost seems to be pushing certain feelings on the reader, the writing here is very subtle and the emotions so raw and honest and effective.
I love this book’s emphasis on stories: their power, their sometimes-ambiguity, the truth they contain. “The power of words” is a pretty frequent theme in books, authors being authors, but the way it’s done in this book is incredibly memorable.
“Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
To tell the truth, it’s difficult for me to pick out individual things I love because this book works so well as a whole. The writing, in all its simplicity, is lovely and lyrical. I don’t think I can talk enough about how much I love it. Likewise, the illustrations are breathtaking.
Pick up. I don’t say this often, but A Monster Calls is a book that everyone definitely needs to read.